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Labour peer Lord Alli returns to London stock market with Marwyn vehicle

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The Labour peer who once presided over media assets including the Octonauts, Mr Men and Noddy is returning to the London stock market at the helm of a vehicle that will target takeovers in the creative industries.

Sky News has learnt that Lord Waheed Alli, the former boss of Chorion and online fashion retailer Koovs, will be named on Monday as chairman of Marwyn Acquisition Company (MAC).

Lord Alli’s appointment, which will see the company seek shareholder approval to rename itself 450 plc, will make him the latest in a string of prominent business figures to team up with Marwyn, one of Britain’s most prolific creators of listed acquisition vehicles.

Under his leadership, 450 will seek to identify an initial target in the media or another creative sector, as Marwyn previously achieved through its ownership of Entertainment One, the company behind Peppa Pig.

One source said the deteriorating economic backdrop meant it was an opportune time to find companies with capital constraints but which were otherwise primed to expand.

Lord Alli, a former chairman of Asos, has had a 25-year career in the media industry, co-founding Planet 24, the television production company behind shows including The Big Breakfast, The Word and Survivor.

Planet 24 was sold to Carlton Productions – now known as ITV Studios – in 1999, before Lord Alli went on to co-found Shine, another TV producer, and chair Chorion, the children’s media group, during its stint as a listed business.

He also founded Silvergate Media, where he orchestrated the acquisition of the intellectual property and distribution rights to The Octonauts in 2011.

While there, he struck international partnerships with Netflix, Disney and Nickelodeon, before he sold Silvergate to Sony in 2019.

Less happily for his investors, Lord Alli was also the boss of Koovs, a business dubbed ‘the Asos of India’, which collapsed in late 2019.

Previous Marwyn vehicles have orchestrated takeovers of companies including WeBuyAnyCar-owner BCA Marketplace, while it is currently working through other vehicles with executives including Mark Hodges, a well-known figure in the insurance industry, and Vin Murria, the software entrepreneur.

With Ms Murria, Marwyn has been involved in a protracted and occasionally bitter takeover battle for M&C Saatchi, the listed advertising agency group.

Marwyn has sought to differentiate its model from the increasingly discredited wave of special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) which have besieged the US public markets during the last three years.

Many of those have either begun to hand back their initial capital or dissolve agreed merger deals amid waning investor enthusiasm.

Marwyn’s supporters say its interests and those of external shareholders are much more closely aligned than those of SPACs, partly because the economic benefits are weighted evenly between the two in Marwyn’s vehicles.

It also prioritises bringing together networks of industry-leading executives to identify targets and execute deals.

A Marwyn spokesman declined to comment on Sunday.

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